Pump it Up: Extreme Sports Dissected
When travelling overseas, it is tempting to try out all the exciting extreme sports you’ve read and watched on television. Because of the high level of physical exertion, you would experience increased levels of dopamine, endorphin and serotonin that give you this exhilarating adrenaline rush. Beyond that, it also allows you to get real up close and personal to the beauty of nature.
As Dr Lim Yeow Wai, Specialist in Orthopaedic Surgery, Raffles Orthopaedic Centre rightly points out, “Any sports not done properly are dangerous.” Here are the facts on the most risky extreme sports and life-saving tips you should take before engaging in these activities.
About the sport
If cycling is something you enjoy, mountain biking is probably a great way for you to get close to nature while you are overseas. Riding off-road over rough terrain using specially adapted mountain bikes, the sport requires endurance, core strength and balance, bike handling skills, and self-reliance.
As mountain biking can be performed almost anywhere, the risks can be under-estimated, says Dr Wong Kutt Sing, Specialist in General Surgery, Raffles Surgery Centre, “just because you can cycle on tarmac roads doesn’t mean that you can cycle on undulating terrain.”
Dr Chris Foo, Specialist in Dermatology at Raffles Skin Centre points out common skin conditions that one can acquire from this activity. “Mountain bikers may experience friction blisters on the hands from tense gripping of the handlebars which can be managed by wearing of gloves. Bikers are also prone to abrasions, lacerations and bruises from falls, fungal infection of the groin due to increased sweating in this area, skin irritation and soreness in the groin due to repetitive movement in this area. Wearing good fitting attire can help. Sunscreen should be applied to prevent sunburns.”
White water rafting
About the sport
White water rafting offers the thrill of navigating at high speed down a river on an inflatable raft. It requires you to steer the raft carefully to avoid rocks and other hazards. As the raft travels down the river, you will encounter sudden drops and rocky waves.
According to Dr Lim, “White water rafting can also cause a slip disc due to the constant jerking up and down in the raft as you manoeuvre down the river. Chances of getting injured are higher in sports such as white water rafting where much is left to the forces of nature.”
About the sport
The sea is full of beautiful and amazing sea creatures and scuba diving allows you to be in the middle of it all. Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set (self contained underwater breathing apparatus) to breathe underwater.
Scuba divers need training on the proper use of equipment, as well as an understanding of the physics and medicine behind descent and ascent during diving, something most dive schools do not emphasise enough, says Dr Ho Kok Yuen, Specialist in Anaesthesiology, Raffles Pain Management Centre. “You need to understand seawater conditions in order to have a safe dive.”
Dr Ho, who tried scuba diving before, added that fatigue and lack of rest on dive trips that focus primarily on diving everyday can expose divers to increased risks.
About the sport
A popular adrenalin-pumping travel activity is bungee jumping. Connected to a large elastic cord, participants would jump off a tall structure. The bungee cord would stretch and as the cord snaps back, the participant would fly upwards. The oscillation will continue until all the energy is dissipated. The thrill of bungee jumping comes from both the free-falling as well as the rebounds.
Bungee jumping injuries include equipment mishaps or tragic accidents, and those that occur regardless of safety measures, such as eyesight damage (which can be transient) or even neck injuries. “Due to the sudden traction involved, bungee jumping is especially bad for the back,” explained Dr Lim.
Rock / Mountain climbing
About the sport
Although artificial rock climbing is available even in Singapore, rock climbing where participants climb up or across natural rock formations is a physically and mentally demanding sport. It often tests participant’s strength, endurance, agility and balance along with his mental control.
To safely do rock climbing, knowledge of proper climbing techniques and usage of specialised climbing equipment is important.
“As many people are amateurs,” explained Dr Wong, “most of them will try things at the novice stage. There are some activities, such as rock climbing, which carries high risks for the novice, as you would be subject to the elements over which you have no control.”
About the sport
It can be an exhilarating experience to run down on your ski at a snow-capped mountain top. Skiing involves the use of a ski to travel over snow. Many ski resorts offer classes to teach skiing techniques which can be difficult to master.
Beginners learning under an instructor would usually be skiing at low speeds, gentle terrain so risks are generally low. Extreme skiers looking at testing their skiing abilities against harsh terrain would put themselves at higher risks. Studies show that there are 3 injuries in 1000 skiing days. Knee injuries are the most common but skiers are at risk of broken bones and even death.
If precautions are taken, extreme sports can be a highlight in your holiday destination. If you have made plans to try them out, consider these tips.
Prior to the trip
Before embarking on such thrilling activities, Dr Wong recommends that you go for a medical checkup as you may not know if you have an underlying condition.
“If you have an uncontrolled medical condition, you may be unable to cope with endurance sports, such as mountain biking and scuba diving,” added Dr Stanley Liew, Specialist in Endocrinology, Raffles Internal Medicine Centre. “In order to undertake strenuous activities, you should undergo a period of training and physical preparation to keep your body in the optimum condition.”
Even before you jump into the queue, do your due checks. Dr Liew recommends that you ask the instructors these questions:
- How is the sports equipment maintained?
- What are some of the safety precautions I should take note of?
As many extreme sports are reliant on the sports equipment, poorly maintained equipment is one of the sources of injuries. Similarly, strict adherence to the safety precautions in the respective sport can help safeguard your wellbeing. You should also warm up the muscles with a sequence of stretches to avoid injury, an important step for sports like skiing.
Although these sports are not contact sports, which typically require mouth guards, they can affect the oral cavity due to their teeth-gritting nature. Minor crack lines may occur as teeth impact against each other during the bumps and jolts. Teeth clenching can also cause jaw joint problems. For this reason, Dr Rachel Chan suggests wearing a mouth guard for these sports.
Frequency of the activity is another consideration. “Though bungee jump may be risky, if one only does bungee jump once in a lifetime, then the overall risk may be relatively lower than performing scuba diving frequently,” says Dr Liew.
All said extreme sports are not inherently dangerous. If all you want is to experience the adrenalin rush to make your holiday complete, go for it!
If a tooth has been hit but not knocked out, rinse out the mouth with warm water to remove any dirt or debris, apply a cold compress to the face and head to the dentist immediately.
See a dentist within 60 minutes should a tooth be knocked out.
If a tooth has been knocked out completely, do not touch the root area but pick it up by the crown (top) part, put the tooth in a cup of milk and head to the dentist straight away. DO NOT SCRUB IT.
Rinse any cuts to lips or cheeks gently and apply constant pressure with a clean gauze pack for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Assess if there’s any other damage once the bleeding has stopped. If it doesn’t stop, stitches may be required. A cold compress can help minimise swelling.